Prayer can cure, says preacher
A preacher whose "patients" claim his prayers can heal cancer is bringing a team of evangelists to Wellington to pray for the sick.
But health authorities are warning people to approach healing claims made by evangelist Bill Subritzky with "extreme caution" ahead of his prayer meeting at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Thorndon next week.
Fliers distributed to Wellington households titled "Jesus Christ saves and heals" contain testimonies from Mr Subritzky's followers telling of miraculous recoveries from cancer, kidney failure and arthritis. "I had kidney failure and was instantly healed after Bill prayed for me," one says.
The former Auckland lawyer, who also asserts he can exorcise demons, has been an evangelist for more than 40 years.
According to his website, "untold tens of thousands have experienced major physical healings as well as deliverance from evil spirits".
Last night, Mr Subritzky said he did not see himself as a healer, but instead introduced people to the "healing power of the Holy Spirit".
"I have been doing this for 40 years. If it was not genuine, the Catholic Church wouldn't allow me on to the premises.
"I have seen major healings over the years from all sorts of things." He never encouraged people to turn to Jesus instead of conventional medicine, but people often sought his services after medicine had failed.
Capital & Coast District Health Board clinical leader for radiation oncology, Carol Johnson, said any declaration of miracle healing should be taken with "extreme caution".
"We strongly recommend that, if you think there is something wrong with your health, you seek medical advice as early as possible, as it is proven that early detection significantly increases survival rates."
New Zealand Skeptics chairwoman Vicki Hyde said faith healing could be dangerous. Sacred Heart parish priest James Lyons said Mr Subritzky's request to hold a meeting at the church was accepted because the power of prayer was indisputable. "He's not saying, 'I will cure you'.
"He's saying, let's come together and pray, and God's power is quite beyond our comprehension."
Asked if he thought people really had been healed by attending Mr Subritzky's meetings, Mr Lyons said he had no reason to disbelieve it. Cancer Society Wellington chief executive Michael Smith said prayer and meditation could help people cope with scientifically proven treatment.
The Dominion Post